News Local/State

News Of Two More Shootings In Urbana, As Community Asks What It Will Take To Stop The Violence


flickr/rod_waddington/CC BY-SA 2.0

News of two shooting incidents that occurred over the weekend in Urbana come at a time when local leaders and community members are grappling with what to do about an uptick in violence across the Champaign-Urbana area.

The latest victims are a 14-year-old boy who is in critical condition from a gunshot wound to the back as he and a friend were riding a bike in Urbana, and a 27-year-old man who was killed after multiple gun shots, according to a news release from the Urbana Police Department. 

Champaign County Coroner Duane Northup identified the man killed as Martez Taylor, according to the News-Gazette. Just one night earlier, Champaign police responded to reports of gunfire and found multiple rounds had been fired into a house containing several people, including children. No serious injuries were reported. On Friday, July 27, Urbana Police announced arrest warrants have been issued for two men in the murder investigation: Keith K. Campbell, 27, and Cory D. Jackson, 30, both of Urbana.

The teen who was injured is a student at Urbana School District 116, according to a statement released Monday night from Superintendent Don Owen. Owen asked parents to contact staff at the middle and high schools if their child wants to speak with a social worker, counselor or other clinical professional following the shooting. 

"We know that many of you have specific questions about why and how this happened, and we are unable to answer many of these questions at this time," he wrote. Owen added that the district hopes to work with the community to mitigate the impact of gun violence on youth. 

Donte' Lotts of CU Fresh Start addresses attendees at a special meeting on gun violence hosted by the Champaign Community Coalition at the Douglass branch of the Champaign Public Library on Thursday, June 28.

Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Public Media

Police data show gun violence is a chronic, growing problem all across Illinois, including in Champaign-Urbana. As of the end of June, more than 50 shooting incidents occurred in Champaign-Urbana, compared to only about 35 this time last year, according to a news release from the city of Champaign.

At a recent event hosted by the Champaign Community Coalition, local residents, social service providers, university employees and other community leaders discussed strategies to curb area gun violence.

Illinois Newsroom reports Donte' Lotts, community liaison for the anti-violence initiative CU Fresh Start, asked the group of about 50 people who had gathered at the Douglass branch of the Champaign Public Library on June 29 what it’s going to take.

“We have a resource-rich community,” he said. “We have the (University of Illinois) here. We have big employment here. We have resources. But why are we not connecting those resources to the people that need them the most?”

When asked to name the community’s greatest strengths, attendees said: CU Fresh Start, the University of Illinois, several dozen African-American churches clustered on the city’s north side, and First Followers, which is a re-entry program for the formerly incarcerated.

Among the concerns expressed by attendees that evening: the availability of firearms, a lack of parenting and role models, violence becoming normalized, and pervasive, systemic poverty coupled with government inaction.

A 2017 Heartland Alliance report finds people living in poverty are more likely to be victims of violence, regardless of whether they live in an urban, suburban or rural area.

In Champaign, the percentage of people living below the poverty level jumped from 22.1 in 2000 to 25.8 in 2016, according to the 2012-2016 American Community Survey Estimates.

Danville, which has the third highest violent crime rate in Illinois, has a poverty rate of nearly 30 percent.

“Illinois has not recovered from the recession as well as other areas,” said Katie Buitrago, director of research at the Heartland Alliance, in an interview with Illinois Newsroom.

Champaign City Council woman Clarissa Fourman recently told Illinois Newsroom the lack of effective response to community violence is concerning.

“You’re walking through the neighborhood in the city you live in, and you’re murdered,” Fourman said. “That was the shooting I was sure was going to change how our community reacted, and sadly, nothing has changed.”

Fourman, who lives in north Champaign, said she hears gun violence more than car tires.

“I feel for the children living in our area and my own children,” she said. “What is it like to listen to gun shots? To listen to violence? To listen to silence all night long? And have to go to school the next day? What is that like for the children?”

Indeed, local teachers are concerned about how exposure to neighborhood violence causes trauma that may affect students’ ability to do well in school.

Elizabeth Degruy, director of special education at Champaign Unit 4 School District, began training teachers across the district’s nearly 20 schools to think about their students differently early last year in an effort to mitigate trauma.

Lee V. Gaines/Illinois Public Media

At a recent workshop on how to mitigate the effects of trauma in children and young adults, Champaign Centennial High School teacher Lindsay Aikman told the group about a student she works with who told her he’s experiencing death anxiety.

“And he’s like, ‘I feel like I’m gonna die. Like I never felt that way until I became a junior. And now I’m scared of it all the time,’” she said. “I don’t even know what to say to him.”

Champaign Police Chief Anthony Cobb told Illinois Newsroom that gang-related gun violence is not as prevalent today as it was in the past. Instead, most of the violence is isolated and related to drugs and domestic problems.

As for the most recent shootings, the Urbana Police Department is asking anyone with information to call 217-384-2320. Callers may remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at 217-373-TIPS, or through the Champaign County Crime Stoppers website.

This story was updated July 23, 2018 with new information from Urbana School District 116. ​

This story was updated July 27, 2018 with new information from the Urbana Police Department.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman